Silent House (Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, 2011)
I was a huge fan of—and I remain a staunch defender of—Kentis and Lau’s first feature, Open Water. So when I heard they’d signed on to do a remake of the microbudget Uruguyan flick La Casa Muda, I was cautiously optimistic; the first two-thirds of the original are creepy and effective, but it’s all blown to shreds by the horrific plot holes in the final third, and I was hoping that a reworked script could address some of the problems there and come up with something exciting.
Well, we did get a reworked script from Lau—one that left all the problems in the movie’s final third, but cut everything good out of the first two-thirds. I knew things were going to go sour right around the time that everyone tromped upstairs without Peter (Julie and Julia‘s Eric Sheffer Stevens, reprising the role played by Gustavo Alonso in the original) warning them not to go upstairs because of structural problems. It seems like such a little thing, but in the original movie, that’s the mechanism on which the tension of much of the first half of the film turns—Laura/Sarah (played here by Martha Macy May Marlene‘s Elizabeth Olsen) starts hearing noises coming from upstairs, and dad (Zodiac‘s Adam Trese) goes up to check them out. When you hear that inevitable scream-thump combo, is there a killer in the house, or did he get caught by a structural defect? It makes the decision Laura (in the original) is faced with—whether to go up there and find out what happened or not—a whole lot more important.
As well, as I mentioned in my review of the original, much of the middle third of the turns on Florencia Colucci’s performance, because she’s the only person onscreen for approximately forty minutes of the film. That section, an exercise in tension (if not a fully-realized one) in the original, is stripped as close to the bone as possible in Lau’s reworked script. Did she not think Olson—a proven commodity, one notes, where Colucci wasn’t—was up to being a solo performer for forty minutes? That’s the only explanation I can come up with for cutting out so many of the original’s most effective scenes. It was a bad decision indeed.
But I was willing to work with it, as long as they closed up some of the original’s plot holes and had the last third of the movie make some semblance of sense. However, nope, they couldn’t even manage to get that right. If anything, the final sequences here are even more muddled. But then, given that the rest of the film is senseless, it makes sense the ending would be, as well. It’s not the worst Hollywood remake of a horror film I’ve ever seen—the twin desecrations of It’s Alive and Friday the 13th may hold that distinction forevermore—but it’s somewhere in the bottom ten. ½